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For multitudes, years of torment end in bliss

At last.

As first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz snagged the final out, citizens of Red Sox Nation convulsed. They wept. They exhaled. They exalted. Smiles blossomed. Hugging erupted. Curses were dismissed, longing was satisfied, and memories made.

Euphoria, joy, or madness -- call it what you will. After 86 years, Red Sox Nation got deliverance.

In South Boston, fireworks lit the sky as revelers spilled into the streets amid a cacophony of car horns. In Jamaica Plain, grown men fell to their knees.

The streets around Fenway Park clogged with young people; intimate celebrations unfolded in pubs, on triple-decker porches, in bodegas, and in thousands of living rooms in this victory-starved region.

It was collective catharsis, millions riveted by nine men playing a boy's game: from the South End to the North End, Provincetown to the Berkshires, Connecticut to Maine, and all the far-flung outposts of New England.

As the victorious images from St. Louis beamed onto televisions, crackled on radios, and lit up computer screens, fans here, in a million different ways, screamed aloud: at last.

"I've cheered them on for 80 years, for 90 years. But I'm telling you, in all my years, this team was the most exciting one," said Leonard Iannarone, 93, of Winthrop, who was 7 when the Sox last won the championship. "What they did in this playoff series makes me forget everything else."

Boston plans a parade for the team and the city. It is expected to be tomorrow, though no official announcement has been made.

Last night's victory erased years of pain for old fans, and created memories likely to last for the young, such as 16-year-old Eric Dwyer, who said: "It's the greatest thrill of my life. I loved every moment of this."

And so ended a postseason epic that left nerves frayed and eyelids droopy with exhaustion, that emptied local streets at the first pitch, then filled them after the last out. It was a series that transformed a region that sensed something special about this team long before the astounding comeback against the New York Yankees.

Shortly after midnight, church bells rang out near Boston Common. Fans wandered the streets, seeming delirious, a little lost, and very, very happy.

Cars circled the Common, more than a few of them flying Dominican Republic flags from their windows, testament to the Sox stars from that country. While some fans sang the praises of Boston's newest sports immortals -- David Ortiz, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez -- others sought more mystical explanations for the dramatic end to a 86-year championship drought.

"The alignment was in the stars tonight," said Kenny Denny, 49, of Boston.

Shortly after the game ended, residents of tony Beacon Hill -- many of them older, a few dressed in Izod sweaters, marched out of their townhouses, and cheerfully gave their neighbors high-fives.

In South Boston, Brian Rabuffetti, 27, rushed out onto the streets: "This is one of the greatest days of my life. I've been a fan since I was 6 years old. I remember '86. Every year I felt, 'This is the year.' "

At Triple D's Bar in Jamaica Plain, Bob Cardoza, 41, of Boston, fell to his knees as the crowd around him erupted in glee. Asked how he felt, Cardoza simply screamed: "Aiiiyyy!" Nearby, a more articulate Jerry Rodgers, 59, of Boston, said, "They finally came through."

In Toledo, Ohio, Democratic presidential nominee and Bostonian John F. Kerry watched the final two innings from his hotel room, bursting into the hallway after the last out to high-five his Secret Service detail.

"I've been rooting for this day since I was a kid," he said. "This Red Sox team came back against all odds and showed America what heart is."

Though the team had a commanding 3-0 lead in the Series going into yesterday, history weighed on the nervous Red Sox Nation.

As the sun went down yesterday, Sox fans nestled in front of televisions, the blue glow in virtually every Beacon Hill window, with simultaneous cheers at every Sox success sounding from bars throughout Davis Square in Somerville.

At the Cheers bar across from the Public Garden, tourists watched in amazement at Sox fans, who glared obsessively at the on-screen action.

"It's not like this in Arizona," said Kelly Meece of Phoenix.

As the Red Sox lead held into the seventh inning, lifelong fan Jason Mercer, 23, of Medford, who was at a tavern in Davis Square, made plans to tattoo "CURSE BROKEN" above the Sox "B" already inked on his right forearm.

And then, just after 11:30 p.m., the final out.

"I cannot believe this," said Roland Segalini, 57, of Lexington. "This can't be real."

In seemingly every corner of Boston, the streets filled. Fans stood on street corners shouting and singing "We are the Champions." Strangers hugged. Others fought back tears. Some chatted with on-scene police about the game.

At the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, five electricians had been working on the fire alarm, listening to the game on a portable radio. When the Red Sox won, they started running through the library.

"We just went nuts," said Scott Herget, 25, one of the workers. "We were jumping up and down, running everywhere. We were just so happy."

Then they took a break, went outside, and saw people rushing down Boylston Street toward Kenmore Square.

In St. Louis, some 2,000 Sox loyalists did not want to leave Busch Stadium.

They stayed in the stands, cheering the champagne-drenched Sox players reemerging from the locker room. Jay Conn, formerly of Needham and now of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said he could not believe his eyes.

"When I was talking to my dad -- he's in Brookline and he's 70 . . . I started to cry. I had tears rolling down my cheeks," he said.

"It's unbelievable, it's that emotional," he added. "This is the kind of thing that brings whole families together. Now we can celebrate it."

Nearby, in a small contingent, was David Fillinger of Portland, Maine, who held his son Sam.

"I was 11 when they lost to St. Louis in 1967, and I brought my son, who's 12, to see them win it all," he said.

Back in the heart of Red Sox territory, Kenmore Square, Jessica Lyons, originally from Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, said she could remember her father crying while watching the Red Sox Series loss in 1986.

"I remember looking at my dad, he had tears in his eyes. I had never seen him cry," she said.

And what now?

"It'll be a big sigh of relief. Life will get back to normal," said Lyons. "Then again, I love this and don't know if I want to get back to normal."

In fact, amid the celebration, many speculated how the sudden, joyous turn of events would change the Red Sox Nation, long fixated with losing.

Paul Donahue, 44, of Boston, who watched the game outside the Cheers bar at Quincy Market, said, "What do you do? You're used to being an also-ran every year."

Globe staff writers Carol Beggy, Jenna Russell, Christine McConville, Sasha Talcott, Patrick Healy, and Globe correspondents Peter DeMarco and Kristen Paulson contributed to this story. Material from the Associated Press was used.

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